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MASTERPIECES 

IN COLOUR 



MASTERPIECES 
IN COLOUR 

EDITED BY - - 
T. LEMAN HARE 



RAEBURN 

17561823 



IN THE SAME SERIES 



ARTIST. 
VELAZQUEZ. 
REYNOLDS. 
TURNER. 
ROMNEY. 
GREUZE. 
BOTTICELLI. 
ROSSETTI. 
BELLINI. 
FRA ANGELICO. 
REMBRANDT. 
LEIGHTON. 
RAPHAEL. 
HOLMAN HUNT. 
TITIAN 
MILLAIS. 
CARLO DOLCI. 
GAINSBOROUGH. 
TINTORETTO. 
LUINI. 

FRANZ HALS. 
VAN DYCK. 
LEONARDO DA VINCI. 
RUBENS. 
WHISTLER. 
HOLBEIN. 
BURNE-JONES. 
VIGEE LE BRUN. 
CHARDIN. 
FRAGONARD. 
MEMLINC. 
CONSTABLE. 
RAEBURN. 
JOHN S. SARGENT 



AUTHOR. 
S. L. BENSUSAN. 
S. L. BENSUSAN. 
C. LEWIS HIND. 
C. LEWIS HIND. 
ALYS EYRE MACICLIN. 
HENRY B. BINNS. 

LUCIRN PlSSARRO. 

GEORGE HAY. 

JAMBS MASON. 

JOSEF ISRAELS. 

A. Lvs BAI.DRY. 

PAUL G. KONODY. 

MARY E. COLERIDGE. 

S. L. BENSUSAN. 

A. LYS BALDRY. 

GEORGE HAY. 

MAX ROTHSCHILD. 

S. L. BENSUSAN. 
JAMES MASON. 

EDGCUMBE STALEY. 

PERCY M. TURNER. 

M. W. B ROCKWELL. 

S. L. BENSUSAN. 

T. MARTIN WOOD. 

S. L. BENSUSAN. 

A. LYS BALDRY. 

C. HALDANE MACFALL. 

PAUL G. KONODY. 

C. HAI.DANE MACFALL. 

W. H. J. & J. C. WEALE. 

C. LEWIS HIND. 

JAMES L. CAW. 

T. MARTIN WOOD. 



Others in Preparation. 



PLATE I. LORD NEWTON (Frontispiece). 
(National Gallery of Scotland.) 

This chef-d'oeuvre, which dates from about 1807, represents one of 
the most celebrated characters who ever sat upon the bench of the 
Court of Session. Famous in his day for "law, paunch, whist, 
claret, and worth," the exploits of Charles Hay, "The Mighty," as 
he was called, have become traditions of the Parliament House. 
(See p. 79.) 




BY JAMES L. CAW 9 9 9 
ILLUSTRATED WITH EIGHT 
REPRODUCTIONS IN COLOUR 




LONDON: T. C. & E. C. JACK 
NEW YORK: FREDERICK A. STOKES CO. 





097426 



CONTENTS 

Pago 

Chapter I. 17 

II. . 27 

HI. - 36 

IV. . . - 44 

V. . 5i 

VI. ... 58 



vii 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 

Plate 

I. Lord Newton .... Frontispiece 
(National Gallery of Scotland) 

II. Children of Mr and the Hon. Mrs Paterson 

of Castle Huntly 14 

(In the possession of Cbas. J. G. Paterson, Esq.) 

III. Mrs Lauzun .24 

(National Gallery, London) 

IV. Mrs Campbell of Balliemore ... 34 

(National Gallery of Scotland) 

V. Professor Robison 40 

(University of Edinburgh) 

VI. John Tait of Harvieston and his Grandson 50 

(In the possession of Mrs Pitman) 

VII. Miss de Vismes 60 

(In the possession of the Earl of Mansfield) 

VIII. Mrs Scott Moncrieff . . . . 70 

(National Gallery of Scotland) 




WHEN in 1810, Henry Raeburn, then at 
the height of his powers, proposed to 
settle in London, Lawrence dissuaded 
him. It is unnecessary, as it would be unjust, 
to insinuate that the future President of the 
Royal Academy had ulterior and personal 
motives in urging him to rest content with his 



12 RAEBURN 

supremacy in the North. Raeburn was fifty-five 
at the time, and, after his undisputed reign at 
home, even his generous nature might have 
taken ill with the competition inseparable from 
such a venture. Lawrence's advice was wise in 
many ways, and Raeburn, secure in the admira- 
tion and constant patronage of his countrymen, 
lived his life to the end unvexed by the petty 
jealousy of inferior rivals. Nor was recognition 
confined to Scotland. Ultimately he was elected 
a member of the Royal Academy, an honour all 
the more valued because unsolicited. Yet, had 
the courtly Lawrence but known, acceptance of 
his advice kept a greater than himself from 
London, and, it may be, prevented the perpetua- 
tion and further development of that tradition 
of noble portraiture of which Raeburn, with 
personal modifications, was such a master. For 
long also it confined the Scottish painter's 
reputation to his own country. Forty years 
after his death, his art was so little known in 
England that the Re_dgraves, in their admirable 
history of English painting, relegated him to 
a chapter headed "The Contemporaries of 
Lawrence." Time brings its revenges, however, 



PLATE II.-CHILDREN OF MR AND THE HON. MRS 
PATERSON OF CASTLE HUNTLY. (Charles J. G. 
Pater son, Esq.) 

Painted within a year or two of Raeburn's return from Italy, 
some critics have seen, or thought they saw, in this picture the 
influence of Michael Angelo. Be this as it may, the handling, 
lighting, and tone and disposition of the colour are eminently 
characteristic of much of the work done by Raeburn about 1790. 



RAEBURN 15 

and of late years Raeburn has taken a place in 
the very front rank of British painters. And, if 
this recognition has been given tardily by 
English critics, the reason is to be found in want 
of acquaintance with his work. He had lived 
and painted solely in Scotland, and Scottish art, 
like foreign art, so long as it remains at home, 
has little interest for London, which, sure of its 
attractive power, sits arrogantly still till art is 
brought to it. But Raeburn's work possesses 
that inherent power, which, seen by com- 
prehending eyes, compels admiration. The 
Raeburn exhibition held in Edinburgh in 1876 
was quite local in its influence, but from time to 
time since then, at "The Old Masters" and 
elsewhere, admirable examples have been shown 
in London; and recent loan collections in 
Glasgow and Edinburgh, wherein his achieve- 
ment was very fully illustrated, were seen by 
large and cosmopolitan audiences. And the 
better his work has become known, the more 
has it been appreciated. Collectors and galleries 
at home and abroad are now anxious to secure 
examples; dealers are as alert to buy as they 
are keen to sell ; prices have risen steadily from 



i6 RAEBURN 

the very modest sums of twenty years ago 
until fine pictures by him fetch as much as 
representative specimens of Reynolds and Gains- 
borough. Fashion has had much to do with this 
greatly enhanced reputation, but another, and 
more commendable cause of the appreciation, 
not of the commercial value but of the artistic 
merit of his work, lies in the fact that the 
qualities which dominate it are those now held 
in highest esteem by artists and lovers of art. 
Isolated though he was, Raeburn expressed 
himself in a manner and achieved pictorial 
results which make his achievement somewhat 
similar in kind to that of Velasquez and Hals. 



IF, during the last century, Scotland has 
shown exceptional activity in the arts, 
especially in painting, and has produced a 
succession of artists whose work is marked by 
able craftsmanship and emotional and subjective 
qualities, which give it a distinctive place in 
modern painting, the more than two hundred 
years which lay between the Reformation and 
the advent of Raeburn seemed to hold little 
promise of artistic development. During the 
Middle Ages and the renaissance the internal 
condition of the country was too unsettled and 
its resources were too meagre to make art 
widely possible. Strong castles and beautiful 
churches were built here and there, but inter- 
mittent war on the borders and fear of invasion 
kept even the more settled central districts in a 
state of unrest. Moreover, the fierce barons 

17 B 



i8 RAEBURN 

were at constant feud amongst themselves, and 
not infrequently the more powerful amongst 
them were banded against the King. Of the 
first five Jameses only the last died, and that 
miserably, in his bed. The innate taste of the 
Stewarts, no doubt, created an atmosphere of 
culture in the Court, and this tendency was 
further strengthened by commercial relations 
with the Low Countries and political associations 
with France. Poetry and scholarship were 
encouraged, if poorly rewarded one remembers 
Dunbar's unavailing poetical pleas for a benefice 
and relics and old records show that even in 
those stirring times life was not without its 
refinements and tasteful accessories. Yet only 
in the Church or for her service was there the 
quietude necessary for art work of the higher 
kinds. Then came the Reformation (during 
which much fine ecclesiastical furniture and 
decoration perished) severing the connection of 
art with religion and sowing distrust of art in 
any form. 

Had the Union of the Crowns not taken place 
in 1603, it is possible that the art of painting 
might have developed much earlier than it did. 



RAEBURN 19 

No doubt that event brought healing to the 
long open sore caused and inflamed by kingly 
ambitions and national animosities, but it re- 
moved the Court to London, and with that some 
of the greatest nobles, while the change in the 
religion of the ruling house from Presbyterianism 
to Episcopacy, which followed, led to the 
Covenants and the religious persecution, and 
drove the iron of ascetism into the souls of those 
classes from whom artists mostly spring. Yet 
the logical rigidity of the Calvinistic spirit, 
while taking much of the joy out of life and 
opposing its manifestation in art, had certain com- 
pensating advantages. Disciplining the mind, 
quickening the reasoning powers, and cultivating 
that grasp of essentials which makes for success 
in almost any pursuit, and not least in art, it 
helped very largely to make the Scot what 
he is. 

During the peaceful years which immediately 
followed the Union, there was considerable 
activity in the building of country residences. 
Now that the country was more settled these 
were less castles than mansions, and the larger 
and better lighted apartments possible led to a 



20 RAEBURN 

good deal of elaborate decoration. Of this Pinkie 
House (1613) with its painted gallery is perhaps 
the most celebrated example. It is difficult, 
however, to determine how much of this kind of 
work was done by foreign, how much by native 
craftsmen, and as it seems to have exerted little 
influence upon the one or two picture-painters 
who emerged during the seventeenth century, one 
need not discuss the probabilities. So far as 
has been discovered, the only link between 
this phase of art and the other consists of 
the fact that George Jamesone (i598?-i644), 
the first clearly recognisable Scottish artist, 
was apprenticed in 1612 to one John Andersone 
"paynter" in Edinburgh, whose decoration in 
Gordon Castle is mentioned by an old chronicler. 
As might be expected in the circumstances the 
"Scottish Van Dyck," as he is fondly called, 
was a portrait-painter. He was followed by a 
few others, such as the Scougall family, Aikman 
Marshall, Wait, and the two Alexanders, who, 
although neither so accomplished nor so much 
appreciated as their precursor, form a never quite 
broken succession of portraitists between him 
and Allan Ramsay (1713-84) in whose work art 



RAEBURN 21 

in Scotland took a great step forward. 1 A few 
of Ramsay's predecessors had succeeded in 
supplementing the meagre instruction if any 
thing that existed could be dignified by that 
name to be obtained in Scotland by a visit to 
the Low Countries or Italy, but Ramsay was 
the first to obtain a sound technical training. 
The author of " The Gentle Shepherd," to whom 
Edinburgh was indebted for its first circulating 
library and its first play-house, encouraged his 
son's bent for art, and after some preliminary 
study in London, Allan fils was sent to " The 
seat of the Beast" beyond the Alps, where he 
became a pupil of Solimena and Imperiale and 
of the French Academy. Formed under these 
influences, his style possesses no clearly marked 
national trait, except it be the feeling for 
character which informs his finer work and 
makes it, in a way, a link between that of 
Jamesone and that of Raeburn. To this he 
added a delicate sense of tone and a tender- 
ness of colour and lighting, a gracefulness of 
drawing and a refined accomplishment which 

1 J. Michael Wright (i62S?-i7oo?), at his best probably the finest native 
painter of the seventeenth century, went to England. 



22 RAEBURN 

were new in Scottish painting. His turn for 
charm of pose and grace of motive was pro- 
nounced, and his protraitures mirror very 
happily the mannered yet elegant social airs of 
the mid-eighteenth century. More than that of 
any English painter of his day, his art possesses 
" French elegance." 

Ramsay's activity as a painter coincided with 
a remarkable intellectual movement which, 
making itself felt in history, philosophy, science, 
and political economy, raised Scotland within a 
few years to a conspicuous intellectual place 
in Europe. A product of the reaction which 
followed the narrow and intense theological ideals 
which had dominated Scotland, it was closely 
associated with the reign of the Moderates, 
who, with their breadth of view, tolerance, and 
intellectual gifts had become the most influential 
party in the National Church. Offering an outlet 
for the human instincts and secular activities, 
it possessed special attraction for independent 
minds and induced boldness of speculation and 
original investigation of the phenomena of history 
and society. Intimate with the leaders in this 
movement, Ramsay, before he left Edinburgh 



PLATE III. MRS LAUZUN. (National Gallery.) 

Only one of the three Raeburns in the National Gallery is an 
adequate example. This is the picture reproduced. It was painted 
in 1795, and, while very typical technically, possesses greater charm 
than most of the portraits of women executed by him at that com- 
paratively early date. 



RAEBURN 25 

for London, was active in the formation (1754) 
of the "Select Society," which in addition to 
its main object the improvement of its members 
in reasoning and eloquence sought to encourage 
the arts and sciences and to improve the 
material and social condition of the people. It 
was in this more genial atmosphere that Henry 
Raeburn was reared. 

Born in 1756, Raeburn was not too late to 
paint many of the most gifted of the older 
generation. David Hume, who sat to Ramsay 
more than once, was dead before the new light 
rose above the horizon, and the appearance of 
Adam Smith does not seem to be recorded 
except in a Tassie medallion; but Black, the 
father of modern chemistry, and Hutton, the 
originator of modern geology, were amongst 
his early sitters ; and fine works in a more 
mature manner have Principal Robertson, 
James Watt, the engineer, Adam Ferguson, 
the historian, Dugald Stewart, the philosopher, 
and others scarcely less interesting for subject. 
And of his own immediate contemporaries the 
cycle of Walter Scott he has left an almost 
complete gallery. Nor were his sitters less 



26 RAEBURN 

fortunate. If they brought fine heads to be 
painted, he painted them with wonderful insight, 
real grasp of character, and greal pictorial 
power. 



II. 

DESCENDED from a race of "bonnet- 
lairds," who took their name from a hill 
farm in the Border district, Robert 
Raeburn, the artist's father, seems to have 
come to Edinburgh as a young man in the 
earlier part of the eighteenth century. At 
that time the city had expanded but little 
beyond the limits marked by the Flodden 
wall. The high grey lands along the windy 
ridge between the Castle and Holyrood were 
still tenanted by the upper classes, and such 
extension as had been was towards the 
Meadows. The new town had not been pro- 
jected even, and on the slopes, now occupied 
by its spacious streets and squares, copse- 
woods and grass and heather grew. In the 
hollow at the foot of these green braes, and 
by the side of the Water of Leith, a chain of 
little hamlets Dean, Stockbridge, and Canon- 
mills nestled, and in the mid-most of these 

27 



28 RAEBURN 

Robert Raeburn established himself as a yarn- 
boiler. Although in the country, his home was 
less than a mile from St Giles's Kirk. His 
business appears to have prospered, and during 
the early forties he married Miss Ann Elder. 
There was a difference of twelve years in the 
ages of their two sons, William and Henry, 
and the younger was no more than six when 
both father and mother died. Left to the care 
of his brother, who carried on the business, 
Henry Raeburn was nominated for maintenance 
and education at Heriot's Hospital by Mrs 
Sarah Sandilands or Durham in 1764, and 
remained seven years in the school, which 
owed its origin to the bequest of George 
Heriot, jeweller to James VI. and I. in Edin- 
burgh and later in London. Many boys had 
been educated on "Jingling GeordieV founda- 
tion, but Raeburn was to be its most distin- 
guished product. He does not seem to have 
distinguished himself specially as a scholar, 
however, the two prizes awarded to him having 
been for writing, and at the age of fifteen or 
sixteen he was apprenticed to a jeweller and 
goldsmith in Parliament Close. This choice of 



RAEBURN 29 

a calling was probably suggested by the lad's 
own inclinations, but it was a stroke of good 
fortune* that gave him James Gilliland as a 
master. No craft then practised in the Scottish 
capital was so likely to have been congenial 
to him. In the eighteenth century a silver- 
smith made as well as sold plate and ornaments, 
and in his master's shop Raeburn must have 
learned to use his hands and may have acquired 
some idea of design. In addition Gilliland 
seems to have been a man of some taste 
one of his most intimate friends, David 
Deuchar, the seal-engraver, devoted his leisure 
to etching, and executed many plates after 
Holbein and the Dutch masters. It was to 
the latter that Raeburn owed his first lessons 
in art. Surprising his friend's apprentice at 
work on a drawing of himself, Deuchar, struck 
by the talent displayed, inquired if he had had 
any instruction. No, he had not, wished he 
had, but could not afford it, the youth replied; 
and Deuchar's offer to give him a lesson once 
or twice a week was accepted eagerly. The 
story is pleasant and circumstantial enough 
to be credible; and the existence of an early 






30 RAEBURN 

Raeburn miniature of Deuchar is evidence of 
the existence of friendship between the two. 
But, as a free drawing-school had been founded 
in 1760 by the Honourable the Board of Manu- 
factures for the precise object of encouraging 
and improving design for manufactures, the 
impossibility of Raeburn receiving instructions of 
some kind was less than seems to be implied. 

It is true, of course, that the teaching then 
given was exceedingly elementary, and that 
it was not until after the appointment in 
1798 of John Graham 1 (1754-1817) as preceptor 
that the Trustees' Academy was developed and 
began to exercise a definite and indeed a 
profound influence on Scottish painting. From 
1771, the year in which Raeburn left Heriot's, 
until his death, Alexander Runciman (1736-85), 
the "Sir Brimstone" of a convivial club of the 
day and an artist of great ambition and some 
gifts, if little real accomplishment, in history 
painting, was master, however, and tradition 
has it that Raeburn took the tone of his 
colour from that painter's work. But no 
record exists of Raeburn having been a pupil 

1 Sir David Wilkie, Sir William Allan, and others were pupils of Graham. 



RAEBURN 31 

of the school, and he does not appear to have 
received any more training than was involved 
in the relationships with his master and his 
master's friend which have been described. 
Even subsequent introduction to David Martin 
(1737-98), who settled in Edinburgh in 1775, 
when Raeburn was nineteen, meant little 
more. By that time, or little later, he had 
almost certainly come to an arrangement 
under which his master cancelled his indenture, 
and received as compensation a share in the 
prices received for the miniatures to which 
Raeburn now chiefly devoted himself, and for 
which Gilliland probably helped to secure 
commissions. These miniatures, of which few 
have survived, recognisable as his work at 
least, possess no very marked artistic qualities. 
Drawn with care and not without considerable 
sense of construction, they are tenderly 
modelled but not stippled, and the colour is 
cool and rather negative in character. The 
frank way in which the sitters are regarded, 
and the lighting and placing of the heads are 
almost the only elements which hint their 
authorship. They are simple and straight- 



32 RAEBURN 

forward likenesses rather than works of art 
and bear no obvious relationship to the elegant 
bibelots or deeply-searched portraits in little 
of the contemporary English school of minia- 
turists. But obviously they were some pre- 
paration for the development which followed, 
when, soon afterwards and almost at once, 
he passed from water-colour miniature to life- 
size portraiture in oil paint. 

The rapid expansion of Edinburgh pro- 
vided new opportunities and helped to 
Raeburn's early success. When he was eight 
years old the building of the North Bridge, 
which was to connect the old city with the 
projected new town on the other side of the 
valley, was begun, and by the time he attained 
his majority many of the well-to-do had 
migrated. The new district meant bigger 
houses and larger rooms, and, with the increase 
in wealth which followed the commercial and 
agricultural development of the country of 
which the city was the capital, led to alterations 
in the habits and expansion of the ideals of 
its inhabitants. It was probably the opening 
for an artist offered by these altered circum- 



PLATE IV. MRS CAMPBELL OF BALLIEMORE. 
(National Gallery of Scotland. 

This is one of the huest of the many fine portraits by Raeburn 
in the Edinburgh Gallery. Its place in the artist's work is discussed 
on page 63. 



RAEBURN 35 

stances which had brought Martin to Edinburgh, 
and certainly Raeburn was fortunate in that 
his emergence coincided with them. An 
attractive and clever lad devoting himself to 
art in a community increasing in wealth and 
expanding in ideas, and with a sympathetic 
master coming in contact with the upper 
classes, Raeburn could not fail to make 
acquaintances able and willing to help him. 
Amongst these was John Clerk, younger of 
Eldin, later a famous advocate, through whom 
the young artist got into touch with the 
Penicuik family which for several generations 
had been notable for its interest in the arts. 
And this would lead to other introductions. 



III. 

THE influences which affected Raeburn and 
the models upon which he formed either 
his style or his method are difficult to 
trace. Allan Ramsay, having painted many 
portraits in Edinburgh before he went to London 
in the same year as Raeburn was born, would be, 
one would think, the most likely source of inspira- 
tion. Except Runciman, who occasionally varied 
historical subjects by portraits painted in a 
broad but somewhat empty manner, and Seaton, 
an artist of whom little is known but whose rare 
and seldom seen portraits possess a breadth of 
handling and a simplicity of design which give 
the best of them a certain distinction can they 
have been an influence with Raeburn? the 
Scottish portrait-painters of the eighteenth 
century were much influenced by Ramsay, and 
Martin had been his favourite pupil. Raeburn's 
connection with the latter was very slight, 
however. Beyond giving the youth the entre6 to 

36 



RAEBURN 37 

his studio and lending him a few pictures to copy, 
Martin does not seem to have been of much 
direct assistance, and even these little courtesies 
come to an end when the painter to the Prince of 
Wales for Scotland unjustly accused the jewel- 
ler's apprentice of having sold one of the copies 
he had been allowed to make. Rumour, often 
astray but now and then hitting the mark, said 
that the real reason was jealousy of the younger 
man's growing powers. Raeburn's debt to 
Ramsay and Martin was therefore inconsiderable 
and indirect. It is not traceable in the technique 
or arrangement of his earliest known pictures, 
such as the full-length "George Chalmers" 
in Dunfermline Town Hall, which was painted 
in 1776, when the artist was twenty. Probably 
sight of Martin's pictures in progress was an 
incentive to work rather than a formative 
influence on his development as a painter. He 
had, says Allan Cunningham, writing within a 
few years of Raeburn's death, "to make experi- 
ments, and drudge to acquire what belongs to 
the mechanical labour, and not to the genius of 
his art His first difficulty was the preparation 
of his colours ; putting them on the palette, and 



38 RAEBURN 

applying them according to the rules of art 
taught in the academies. All this he had to seek 
out for himself." And, if probably exaggerated, 
the statement gives some idea of the difficulties 
with which he had to contend. There were at 
that time no exhibitions and no public collections 
of pictures where a youth of genuine instinct 
could have gleaned hints as to technical pro- 
cedure, but there were at least portraits in a 
number of houses in the city and district, and 
from these and from prints after the Masters, of 
which Deuchar, an etcher himself, evidently 
possessed examples, Raeburn no doubt derived 
much instruction as to design, the use of 
chiaroscuro and the like. It has also been 
suggested with considerable likelihood that 
mezzotints after portraits by Sir Joshua Reynolds 
had a considerable effect upon him. 

Passing from supposition, which, however 
interesting and plausible, throws no very definite 
light upon the formation of Raeburn's style, to 
his early work itself, one finds it chiefly re- 
markable for frank rendering of character. 
Obviously he believed in his own eyes, and 
sought simple and direct ways for the expression 



PLATE V.-PROFESSOR ROBISON. 

(University of Edinburgh.) 

Painted about 1798, "Professor Robison" is one of the most 
notable portraits painted by Raeburn before 1800. It represents 
the culmination of his premier coup manner. (See pp. 63 and 73. ) 



RAEBURN 41 

of his vision. Certain of what he saw, and 
desiring to set it down as he saw it, lack of 
training in the traditional methods of painting 
by process probably led him to attempt direct 
realisation in paint. Here is at once the simplest 
and the most reasonable explanation of how he 
became an exponent of direct painting, of how, 
isolated though it was, his art came to be perhaps 
the most emphatic statement of this particular 
method of handling between Velasquez and Hals 
and comparatively recent times. Of course at 
this early stage his technical accomplishment 
was not at all equal to his frankness of vision. 
His drawing, although expressing character, was 
uncertain and not fully constructive ; his sense of 
design was rather stiff and occasionally some- 
what archaic in character; his handling and 
modelling, if broad and courageous, were insuffi- 
ciently supported by knowledge; his colour was 
apt to be dull and monotonous, or, when breaking 
from that, patchy and crude in its more definite 
notes which do not fuse sufficiently with their 
surroundings. 

Gradually these deficiencies were mastered, 
but in some degree they persist in most of the 



42 RAEBURN 

comparatively few portraits which can be said 
with certainty to have been painted before he 
went to Italy. He had been in no hurry to go. 
Ever since marriage with one of his sitters in 
1778, when he was only twenty-two, his future 
had been secure. The lady, ne6 Ann Edgar of 
Bridgelands, Peebleshire, brought him a consider- 
able fortune. The widow of James Leslie who 
traced his descent to Sir George Leslie, first Baron 
of Balquhain (1351), and who, after his purchase 
of Deanhaugh in I777, 1 was spoken of as " Count 
of Deanhaugh " she was twelve years the artist's 
senior, and had three children ; but the marriage 
turned out most happily for all concerned. 
Raeburn went to live at his wife's property, 
which lay not far from his brother's house and 
factory at Stockbridge, and, although sitters 
increased with his growing reputation until he 
is said to have been quite independent of his 
wife's income, he does not appear to have had a 
separate studio. Probably his Edinburgh clients 

1 If, as stated by Cumberland Hill in his History of Stockbridge, Leslie 
bought Deanhaugh in 1777, and if, as stated by Cunningham and others, 
Raeburn married in 1778, the lady can have been a widow for only a few 
months. 

V 



RAEBURN 43 

went to Deanhaugh, and at times he seems to 
have painted portraits at the country houses 
of the gentry. But in 1785 desire to see and 
learn more than was possible at home took him 
to Italy. While in London he made the 
acquaintance of Reynolds, in whose studio he 
may have worked for a few weeks, and Sir 
Joshua's advice confirming his original intention, 
Raeburn and his wife went to Rome, where 
they resided about two years. When parting 
Reynolds took him aside and whispered : " Young 
man, I know nothing about your circumstances. 
Young painters are seldom rich; but if money 
be necessary for your studies abroad, say so, and 
you shall not want it." Money was not needed, 
but letters of introduction were accepted gladly ; 
and "ever afterwards Raeburn mentioned the 
name of Sir Joshua with much respect." 



IV. 

IN these days of rapid travel, the transition 
from north to south is exceedingly striking. 
Leaving London one speeds past the 
pleasant Surrey fields and lanes and woodlands, 
and through the soft rolling green downs, and in 
the afternoon and evening sees the less familiar 
but not strange wide planes and poplar-fringed 
rivers of Northern France, to open one's eyes 
next morning upon the brown sun-baked lands, 
with their strange southern growths, which lie 
behind Marseilles; and all day as the train 
thunders along the Riviera, through olive gardens 
and vineyards, one has glimpses of strangely 
picturesque white-walled and many-coloured 
shuttered towns fringing the broad bays or 
clustering on the rocks above little harbours, 
and drinks a strange enchantment from great 
vistas of lovely coast washed by blue waters 
and gladdened by radiant sunshine. And on 
the second morning, issuing into the great square 

44 



RAEBURN 45 

before the station, you have your first sight of 
Rome. 

Yet impressive as these transitions are, they 
are nothing to the contrast which Rome pre- 
sented to the stranger from the north in the 
eighteenth century when, after slow and long and 
weary travelling, he reached his goal. Then 
Rome was still a town of the renaissance imposed 
upon a city of the ancients ; and under the aegis 
of the Papacy preserved aspects of life and 
character which differed little from those of 
three or four centuries earlier. After the grey 
metropolis of the north, with its softly luminous 
or cloudy skies, its sombreness of aspect, its 
calvinistic religious atmosphere, its interest in 
science and philosophy, and its want of interest 
in the arts, the clear sunshiny air of the 
Eternal City, its picturesque and crowded life, 
its gorgeous ecclesiastical ceremonies and pro- 
cessions, its monuments of art and achitecture, 
and its cosmopolitan coteries of eager dilettanti 
discussing the latest archaeological discoveries, 
and of artists studying the achievements of the 
past, must have formed an extraordinary contrast 
Yet Raeburn, much as these novel and stirring 






46 RAEBURN 

surroundings would strike him, remained true 
to his own impressions of reality and was un- 
affected in his artistic ideals. Almost alone of 
the foreign artists then resident in Rome, he 
was unaffected by the pseudo-classicism which 
prevailed. In part a product of emasculated 
academic tradition, and in part the result of 
philosophical speculations, upon which the 
discoveries at Pompeii and the excavations 
then taking place in Rome had had a strong 
influence, it was an attitude which founded itself 
upon the past and opposed the direct study of 
nature. Gavin Hamilton (1723-98) and Jacob 
More (1740 ?-93) two of its most conspicuous 
pictorial exponents were Scots by birth, but 
they had lived so long abroad that Scotland 
had become to them little more than a memory. 
The work of the former was in many ways an 
embodiment of the current dilettante conception 
of art, and kindred in kind, though earlier in 
date, to that of Jacques Louis David (1748-1825) 
under whose sway, towards the close of the 
century, classic ideals came to dominate the 
art of Europe outside these isles. His useful- 
ness to Raeburn was chiefly that of a cicerone. 



RAEBURN 47 

There was little of an archaeological kind with 
which he was unacquainted, and he was so 
famous a discoverer of antiquities that the 
superstitious Romans thought that he was in 
league with the devil. The landscapes of More, 
though highly praised by Goethe, would appeal 
to Raeburn little more than did the "sublime" 
historical designs of Hamilton. They were but 
dilutions, frequently flavoured with melo- 
dramatic sentiment, of the noble convention 
formulated by Claude and the Poussins. 
Raeburn, on the other hand, had looked at 
man and nature inquiringly, and had evolved a 
manner of expressing the results of his 
observation for himself. Moreover he was past 
the easily impressionable age, and turned his 
opportunities to direct and practical uses. He 
used to declare that the advice of James Byres 
(1734-1818?) of Tonley, who, in Raeburn's own 
words, was " a man of great general information, 
a profound antiquary, and one of the best judges 
perhaps of everything connected with art in 
Great Britain," was the most valuable lesson 
he received while abroad. "Never paint any- 
thing except you have it before you " was what 



48 RAEBURN 

his friend urged, and, while Raeburn, to judge 
from his early portraits, did not stand greatly 
in need of the injunction, it probably strengthened 
him in his own beliefs. Be that as it may he 
seems to have used his stay in Italy principally 
to widen his technical experience, and his work 
after his return was richer and fuller than 
what he had done previously. No record of 
any special study he may have undertaken or 
of the pictures he particularly admired exists. 
Even gossip is silent as regards his preferences, 
except in so far as it is said that while in Rome 
he came near to preferring sculpture to painting. 



PLATE VI. JOHN TAIT OF HARVIESTON AND 
HIS GRANDSON. (Mrs Pitman.) 

One of the artist's most virile and trenchant performances, it 
was painted in 1798-9. The child was introduced after the grand- 
father's death. (Seep. 63.) 



\ 



V. 

ARRIVED back in Edinburgh in 1787, 
Raeburn took a studio in the new town, 
and, with his enhanced powers and the 
added prestige due to his sojourn abroad, soon 
occupied a commanding place. Few agreed 
with Martin that "the lad in George Street 
painted better before he went to Italy," for if 
the majority were unaware of his high artistic 
gifts, none could be unconscious of the vital and 
convincing quality of his portraitures. His 
earlier sitters included some of the most dis- 
tinguished people in Scotland. Lord President 
Dundas must have been amongst the very 
first for he died before the end of the year. 
Ere long his position was unassailable, and 
during the five-and-thirty years that followed he 
painted practically everybody who was any- 
body. Burns is probably the only great Scotsman 
of that epoch who was not immortalised by his 
brush, for the missing likeness, which has been 
discovered so often, was not painted from life 
but from Nasmyth's portrait. 

From the time he returned home until 1809, 

51 



52 RAEBURN 

when he purchased the adjoining property of 
St Bernard's, Raeburn lived at Deanhaugh. 1 
The junction of these small estates enabled him 
to feu the outlying parts on plans prepared by 
himself, architecture being one of his hobbies, 
and his family's connection with them is still 
marked by such names as Raeburn Place, Ann 
Street (after his wife), Leslie Place, St Bernard's 
Crescent, and Deanhaugh Street. Some years 
earlier continuous increase in the number of 
his clients had rendered a change of studio 
desirable, and in 1795 he moved from George 
Street to 16 (now 32) York Place where he had 
built a specially designed and spacious studio, 
with a suite of rooms for the display of recently 
completed work or of portraits he had painted 
for himself. At a later date, when exhibitions 
were inaugurated in Edinburgh (first series 1808- 
13), he lent the show-rooms to the Society of 
Artists which organised them. This action was 

1 All Raeburn's biographers follow Cunningham in stating that Raeburn 
succeeded to St Bernard's on the death of his brother in 1787 or 1788. It was 
not so, however. The intimation in the Edinburgh Evening Courant, 
of I3th December 1810, reads, " Died on the 6th December Mr William Raeburn, 
manufacturer, Stockbridge" ; and the title deeds of St Bernard's show that 
the artist purchased it from the trustees of the late Mrs Margaret Ross in 
October 1809 



RAEBURN 53 

typical of Raeburn's cordial relations with his 
fellow-artists, most of whom were poor and 
socially unimportant; and only a year before 
his death he championed the professional 
artists when, partly in opposition to the Royal 
Institution, they proposed to form an Academy. 
Incidentally also, the letter written on that 
occasion, which I have transcribed in full in 
Scottish Painting; Past and Present, gives an 
indication of the extent of his practice, of how 
fully he was engaged. 

Until 1808 Raeburn's career had been one 
unbroken success, but in that year, following 
upon the failure of his son, financial disaster 
overtook him. The firm of " Henry Raeburn and 
Company, merchants, Shore, Leith," consisted 
of Henry Raeburn, Junior, and James Philip 
Inglis, who had married Anne Leslie, the artist's 
step-daughter, but neither the Edinburgh Gazette 
nor the local Directory states the nature of their 
business. In the proceedings in connection with 
Raeburn's own bankruptcy, however, he is dis- 
cribed as "portrait-painter and underwriter." 
What underwriter exactly means is uncertain, but 
it may be that the son was a marine-insurance 



54 RAEBURN 

broker, that Raeburn himself took marine- 
insurance risks. In any case his ruin seemed 
complete. Not only did he lose all his savings 
but he had even to sell the York Place studio, 
of which he was afterwards only tenant. He 
failed, paid a composition, and, two years later, 
proposed settling in London. By those of his 
biographers who have noticed it at all, this 
failure and the contemplated removal south have 
been very closely associated. But a more care- 
ful examination of the whole circumstances 
makes such an assumption rather doubtful. 
Alexander Cunningham, in a letter written on 
i6th February 1808, tells a correspondent "I 
had a walk of three hours on Sunday with my 
worthy friend, Raeburn. He had realised nearly 
17,000, which is all gone. He has offered a 
small composition, which he is in hopes will be 
accepted. He quits this to try his fate in 
London, which I trust in God will be successful. 
While I write this I feel the tear start." So 
far the connection is evident enough. But 
although the artist received his discharge in 
June of the same year, 1 it was not until two 
years later that he took active steps towards 

1 Henry Raeburn & Co.'s affairs were not settled until March 1810. 



RAEBURN 55 

carrying out his idea. 1 The time was highly 
propitious. Hoppner had just died (23rd January 
1810), and Wilkie records in his journal (March 
2nd) that he had heard that that artist's house 
was to be taken for Raeburn. Lawrence was 
now without a rival in the metropolis, and 
Raeburn's talent was of a kind which would 
soon have commanded attention there. The 
opening was obvious, but Raeburn's reception 
by the gentlemen of the Royal Academy, when 
he visited London in May, was not very cordial, 
and fortunately for Scotland, if not for himself, he 
was persuaded to remain in Edinburgh. From 
then onward the fates were kind. To quote 
his own words, written in 1822, "my business, 
though it many fall off, cannot admit of en- 
largement." 

Wider recognition also came to him. He 
had exhibited at the Royal Academy as early 
as 1792, but it was 1810 before he became a 
regular contributor, and in 1812 he was elected 
an Associate, full membership following three 
years later. Just prior to his advancement to 
Academician rank, he wrote one of the few 

1 That his own affairs were not only settled but were again highly prosper- 
ous before this is apparent from his having purchased St Bernard's in 1809. 



56 RAEBURN 

letters by him that have been preserved: 
" I observe what you say respecting the election 
of an R A. ; but what am I to do here ? They 
know that I am on their list ; if they choose to 
elect me without solicitation, it will be the more 
honourable to me, and I will think the more 
of it ; but if it can only be obtained by means 
of solicitation and canvassing, I must give up 
all hopes of it, for I would think it unfair to 
employ those means." 

No doubt election was particularly gratifying 
to Raeburn. Isolated as he was in Edinburgh, 
where an Academy did not come into existence 
until some years after his death, it must have 
been stimulating to receive such tangible 
assurance of that appreciation of one's fellow- 
workers which is the most grateful form of 
admiration to the artist. He reciprocated by 
offering as his diploma work the impressive 
portrait of himself, which is now one of the 
treasures of the National Gallery of Scotland. 
The rules of the Academy, however, forbade 
the acceptance of a self-portrait, and in 1821 he 
gave the " Boy with Rabbit" a portrait of his 
step-grandson, but one of his most genre-like 



RAEBURN 57 

pieces. Other Academic diplomas received later 
were those of the Academies of Florence, New 
York, and South Carolina. 

A year before he died these artistic laurels 
were supplemented by royal favour. On the 
occasion of that never-to-be-forgotten event- 
to those who took part in it the first visit of 
a King to Scotland since the Union of Parlia- 
ments, Raeburn was presented to George IV. 
and knighted. His fellow artists marked their 
appreciation of this fresh distinction by enter- 
taining him to a public dinner, at which the 
chairman, Alexander Nasmyth, the doyen of 
the local painters, declared that "they loved 
him as a man not less than they admired him 
as an artist." And in the following May, the 
King appointed him his "limner and painter in 
Scotland, with all fees, profits, salaries, rights, 
privileges, and advantages thereto belonging." 

Raeburn did not long enjoy these new 
honours. In July, a day or two after returning 
from an archaeological excursion in Fifeshire 
with, amongst others, Sir Walter Scott and 
Miss Edgeworth, he became suddenly ill, took 
to bed, and in less than a week was dead. 



VI. 

WHILE Raeburn's attitude to reality 
was determined and his style was 
formed to a great extent before he 
went abroad, his ideas of pictorial effect were 
broadened and his technical resources enriched 
by his sojourn in Italy. Some of the work 
executed immediately after his return, such as 
the portraits of Lord President Dundas, Neil 
Gow, the famous fiddler, and the earlier of two 
portraits of his friend John Clerk of Eldin, 
shows, with much unity, a greater care and 
precision in the handling of detail, a more 
searched kind of modelling and a fuller sense 
of tone, and thicker impasto and fuller colour 
than that done previously. Moreover the design 
of the first-named picture is reminiscent in 
certain ways of Velasquez's "Pope Innocent X.," 
which he may have seen and studied in the 
Doria Palace in Rome, though too much stress 
need not be laid on the resemblance. About 
this time also, he painted a few pictures in 

58 



PLATE VII. MISS EMILY DE VISMES LADY 
MURRAY. (Earl of Mansfield.) 

An admirable example of the artist's mature style, and one of 
his most charming portraits of women. (See p. 79.) 



RAEBURN 61 

which difficult problems of lighting are subtly 
and skilfully solved. In things like the charm- 
ing bust "William Ferguson of Kilrie" (before 
1790) and the group of Sir John and Lady Clerk 
of Penicuik (1790) the faces are in luminous 
shadow, touched by soft reflected light to give 
expression and animation. But for obvious 
reasons such effects are not favoured by the 
clients of portrait-painters, and that Raeburn 
should have adopted them at all is evidence of 
the widening of the artistic horizon induced 
by his stay abroad. 

In pictures painted but little later than these, 
one finds a marked tendency to revert to 
the more abbreviated modelling and broader 
execution which have been noted as character- 
istic of his pre-Roman style. The execution, 
however, is now much more confident and 
masterly, the draughtsmanship better, the de- 
sign, while exceedingly simple, less stiff and 
more closely knit. Using pigment of very 
fluid consistency and never loading the lights, 
though following the traditional method of 
thick in the lights and thin in the shadows, 
his handling is exceedingly direct and spon- 



62 RAEBURN 

taneous, his touch fearless and broad yet 
thoroughly under control, his drawing summary 
yet selective and so expressive that, even in 
faces where the lighting is so broad that there 
is little shadow to mark the features and little 
modelling to explain the planes, the large 
structure of the head and the essentials of 
likeness are rendered in a very satisfying and 
convincing way. His colour, however, if losing 
the inclination to the rather dull grey-greenness 
which had prevailed before 1785, remained 
somewhat cold and wanting in quality, and the 
more forcible tints introduced in the draperies 
were frequently lacking in modulation and were 
not quite in harmony with the prevailing tone. 
Something of this deficiency in fusion is also 
noticeable in his flesh tints, the carnations of 
the complexions being somewhat detached 
owing to defective gradation where the pinks 
join the whites. As experience came, Raeburn 
advanced from the somewhat starved quality 
of pigment, which in his earlier pictures was 
accentuated by his broad manner of handling, 
until in many of the pictures painted during 
the later nineties he attained extraordinary 



RAEBURN 63 

power of expression by vigorous and incisive 
use of square brush-work and full yet fluid and 
unloaded impasto. This method with its sharply 
struck touches and simplified planes reaches 
its climax perhaps in the striking portrait 
(1798 circa) of Professor Robison in white night- 
cap and red-striped dressing-gown, though the 
more fused manner of "Mrs Campbell of 
Balliemore" (1795) and the extraordinary trench- 
ant handling of the "John Tait of Harvieston 
and his grandson " (1798-9) show modifications 
which are as fine and perhaps less mannered. 
Even earlier he sometimes attained a solidity 
and forcefulness of effect, a fullness of colour, 
and a resonance of tone which gave foretaste 
of the accomplishment of his full maturity. 
Curiously this is most marked in two or three 
full-lengths. The earliest of these was the 
famous " Dr Nathaniel Spens " in the possession 
of the Royal Company of Archers, by which 
body it was commissioned in 1791. In it close 
realisation of detail and restraint in handling 
are very happily harmonised with breadth of 
ensemble and effectiveness of design. Some 
five years later this fine achievement was 



64 RAEBURN 

followed by the even more striking, if rather 
less dignified, "Sir John Sinclair," a splendid 
piece of virtuosity, which unites brilliant colour 
and admirable tone to great dash and bravura 
of brush-work. 

During this period, and indeed throughout his 
career, Raeburn usually placed his sitters in a 
strong direct light, which, being thrown upon 
the head and upper part of the figure (from a 
high side-light) illumined the face broadly, and, 
while emphasising the features with definite 
though narrow shadows, made it dominate the 
ensemble. Very often this concentration of 
effect was associated with a forced and arbitrary 
use of chiaroscuro. In many of his pictures one 
finds the lower portion of the figure, including 
the hands, low in tone through the artist having 
arranged a screen or blind to throw a shadow 
over the parts he wished subordinated. This 
device appears in full-lengths as well as in busts 
and threequarter-lengths, and while, no doubt, 
helping to the desired end, is now and then a 
disturbing influence from the fact that it is 
difficult to account for the result from purely 
normal causes. With Rembrandt, the greatest 



RAEBURN 65 

master of concentrated pictorial effect, the 
transitions from the fully illumined passages to 
the surrounding transparent darks are so gradual 
and so subtle that one scarcely notices that the 
effect has been arranged the concentration is 
an integral part of the imaginative apprehension 
of the subject. It is otherwise with Raeburn, in 
his earlier work at least. Later he attained 
much the same results by less arbitrary and 
apparent means, by swathing the hands and 
arms the high tone of which he evidently found 
disconcerting and conflicting with the heads in 
drapery, by placing them where they tell as little 
as possible, and by modifications in handling. His 
management of accessories was also determined 
by desire for concentration. Although, as is 
obvious from his increasing use of it, preferring 
a simple background from which the figure 
has atmospheric detachment, he frequently 
used the scenic setting which Reynolds and 
Gainsborough had made the vogue. His idea, 
however, was that a landscape background 
should be exceedingly unassertive " nothing 
more than the shadow of a landscape; effect 
is all that is wanted" and, always executing 



66 RAEBURN 

them himself, his are invariably subordinate 
to the figure. But the essential quality of his 
vision went best with plain backgrounds. That 
he did not wholly abandon the decorative con- 
vention which he heired, and often employed to 
excellent purpose, was due in large measure to 
caution. "He came," says W. E. Henley, "at 
the break between new and old when the old 
was not yet discredited, and the new was still 
inoffensive; and with that exquisite good sense 
which marks the artist, he identified himself with 
that which was known, and not with that which, 
though big with many kinds of possibilities, 
was as yet in perfect touch with nothing actively 
alive." Yet, had he had the full courage of his 
convictions, his work would have been an even 
more outstanding landmark in the history of 
painting than it is. Still to ask from Raeburn 
what one does not get from Velasquez, many of 
whose portraits have a conventional setting, is 
to be more exacting than critical, and, as has 
been indicated, simplicity of design and aerial 
relief became increasingly evident in Raeburn's 
work, and that in spite of the protests of some 
of his admirers. 



RAEBURN 67 

While Raeburn had been working towards a 
fuller and more subtle statement of likeness, 
modelling, and arrangement, it is possible that 
removal to his new studio accelerated develop- 
ment in that direction. The painting-room 
had been designed by himself for his own 
special purposes, and no doubt suggested new 
possibilities. In any case, the portraits painted 
after 1795 reveal a definite increase in the 
qualities mentioned. But before considering the 
characteristics of his later style, it might be well 
to tell what is known of his habits of work and 
technical procedure. Cunningham's summary of 
these applies partly to the George Street and 
partly to the York Place period, but for practical 
purposes they may be regarded as one, for, while 
Raeburn's art may be divided into periods, each 
was but a stage in a gradual and consistent 
evolution. "The motions of the artist were as 
regular as those of a clock. He rose at seven 
during summer, took breakfast about eight 
with his wife and children, walked into George 
Street, and was ready for a sitter by nine ; and 
of sitters he generally had, for many years, not 
fewer than three or four a day. To these he gave 



68 RAEBURN 

an hour and a half each. He seldom kept a 
sitter more than two hours, unless the person 
happened and that was often the case to be 
gifted with more than common talents. He then 
felt himself happy, and never failed to detain the 
party till the arrival of a new sitter intimated 
that he must be gone. For a head size he 
generally required four or five sittings : and he 
preferred painting the head and hands to any 
other part of the body; assigning as a reason 
that they required less consideration. A fold of 
drapery, or the natural ease which the casting 
of a mantle over the shoulder demanded, 
occasioned him more perplexing study than a 
head full of thought and imagination. Such was 
the intuition with which he penetrated at once 
to the mind, that the first sitting rarely came to 
a close without his having seized strongly on the 
character and disposition of the individual. He 
never drew in his heads, or indeed any part of 
the body, with chalk a system pursued success- 
fully by Lawrence but began with the brush at 
once. The forehead, chin, nose, and mouth, 
were his first touches. He always painted 
standing, and never used a stick for resting his 



PLATE VIII.-MRS SCOTT MONCRIEFF. 
(National Gallery of Scotland.) 

None of Raeburn's portraits of ladies is quite so famous as this. 
Although in indifferent condition owing to bitumen having been used, 
it is singularly charming in colour, design, and sentiment, and is one 
of the chief treasures of the gallery, in which it has hung since 1854, 
when Mr R. Scott Moncrieff, Welwood of Pitliver, bequeathed it to 
the Royal Scottish Academy. (See page 79.) 




RAEBURN 71 

hand on ; for such was his accuracy of eye, and 
steadiness of nerve, that he could introduce the 
most delicate touches, or the almost mechanical 
regularity of line, without aid, or other con- 
trivance than fair off-hand dexterity. He 
remained in his painting-room till a little after 
five o'clock, when he walked home, and dined at 
six. . . . From one who knew him in his youth- 
ful days, and sat to him when he rose in fame, I 
have this description of his way of going to 
work. "He spoke a few words to me in his 
usual brief and kindly way evidently to put me 
into an agreeable mood ; and then having placed 
me in a chair on a platform at the end of his 
painting-room, in the posture required, set up 
his easel beside me with the canvas ready to 
receive the colour. When he saw all was right, 
he took his palette and his brush, retreated back 
step by step, with his face towards me, till he 
was nigh the other end of the room; he stood 
and studied for a minute more, then came up to 
the canvas, and, without looking at me, wrought 
upon it with colour for some time. Having done 
this, he retreated in the same manner, studied 
my looks at that distance for about another 



72 RAEBURN 

minute, then came hastily up to the canvas and 
painted for a few minutes more." These details 
may be supplemented by the list of colours used 
by him, which Alexander Fraser, R.S.A., gave 
in The Portfolio. "His palette was a simple 
one ; his colours were vermilion, raw sienna (but 
sometimes yellow ochre instead), Prussian blue, 
burnt sienna, ivory black, crimson lake, white, 
of course, and the medium he used was 
1 gumption,' a composition of sugar of lead, 
mastic varnish, and linseed oil. The colours 
were ground by a servant in his own house and 
put into small pots ready for use." When one 
adds that his studio had a very high side-light, 
and that he painted on half-primed canvas with 
a definitely marked twill, all that is known of his 
practice has been noted. 

As already suggested, Raeburn's style was 
tending towards greater completeness of expres- 
sion and more naturalness of arrangement before 
he removed to York Place in 1795, but, while 
his normal advance was in that direction, it 
was so gradual that it is only by looking at 
a number^ of pictures painted, say, five or ten 
years later, and comparing them with their 



RAEBURN 73 

predecessors that one notices that the advance 
was definite and not casual. Occasionally, as 
in the "Professor Robison," there is a very 
emphatic restatement of a somewhat earlier 
method ; but, as the " Lord Braxfield " of about 
1790 is a premonition of a much later manner, 
this exceptional treatment seems to have been 
inspired by the character of the sitter having 
suggested its special suitability. But comparing 
the splendid group, "Reginald Macdonald of 
Clanranald and his two younger brothers" 
(about 1800), or the "Mrs Cruikshank of 
Langley Park" (about 1805), with typical 
examples painted between 1787 and 1795, one 
finds the later pictures marked not only by 
increased power of drawing and more masterly 
brush-work but by a finer rendering of form, by 
greater roundness of modelling, and by a more 
expressive use of colour and chiaroscuro. 

Considerable ingenuity has been expended 
in trying to prove that Raeburn's subsequent 
development was due in some way or other to 
the influence of Hoppner and Lawrence. Con- 
sideration of his situation and of his work itself, 
however, scarcely bears this out. His ignorance 



74 RAEBURN 

of what was being done by London artists, and 
of how his own pictures compared with theirs, 
is very clearly evident from the following letter 
written to Wilkie : 

Edinburgh, 
12th September 1819. 

Mr dear Sir, I let you to wit that I am still here, and long 
much to hear from you, both as to how you are and what you 
are doing. I would not wish to impose any hardship upon 
you, but it would give me great pleasure if you would take 
the trouble to write me at least once a year, if not oftener, 
and give me a little information of what is going on among 
the artists, for I do assure you I have as little communication 
with any of them, and know almost as little about them, as 
if I were living at the Cape of Good Hope. 

I send up generally a picture or two to the Exhibition, 
which serve merely as an advertisement that I am still in the 
land of the living, but in other respects it does me no good, 
for I get no notice from any one, nor have I the least con- 
ception how they look beside others. I know not in what 
London papers any critiques of that kind are made, and our 
Edinburgh ones (at least those that I see) take no notice of 
these matters. At any rate I would prefer a candid observa- 
tion or two from an artist like you, conveying not only your 
own opinion but perhaps that of others, before any of them. 

Are the Portrait-Painters as well employed as ever? Sir 
Thomas Lawrence, they tell me, has refused to commence 
any more pictures till he gets done with those that are on 



RAEBURN 75 



hand, and that he has raised his prices to some enormous 
sum. Is that true, and will you do me the favour to tell me 
what his prices really are, and what Sir W. Beechy, Mr 
Philips, and Mr Owen have for their pictures ? It will be 
a particular favour if you will take the trouble to ascertain 
these for me precisely, for I am raising my prices too, and 
it would be a guide to me not that I intend to raise mine 
so high as your famous London artists. 

Moreover he is said to have visited London 
only three times : in 1785, when he spent several 
weeks while on his way to Italy ; in 1810, when 
he contemplated settling there; and in 1815, 
after he was elected an Academician. It is 
of course only with the later visits that we have 
to do in this connection. By that time Hoppner 
was dead, and Lawrence's claim to be painter 
par excellence to the fashionable world was 
undisputed. No doubt the Scottish painter 
would be attracted by the technical accomplish- 
ment of Lawrence's work; but he was between 
fifty and sixty years of age and little likely to 
be influenced by an art, which, for all its 
brilliance, was meretricious in many respects. 
Yet it is possible that the adulation lavished 
by society upon his contemporary's style may 
have induced him to consider if something of 



76 RAEBURN 

the elegance for which it was esteemed so 
highly could not be added with advantage to 
his own. On the other hand, Scottish society 
was gradually undergoing evolution, and, 
while a greater infusion of fashion amongst its 
members would in itself tend to stimulate the 
favourite painter of the day in the same direction, 
increase in wealth would bring a greater number 
of younger sitters to his studio. Probably a 
combination of these represents the influences 
which affected Raeburn. In any case, his later 
portraits, especially of women, possess qualities 
of charm and beauty which, while never merely 
pretty or meretricious, connect them in some 
measure with the more modish and less sincere 
and virile work of Lawrence. But otherwise 
and, unlike his southern contemporaries, he 
never sacrificed character to elegance or 
subordinated individuality to type the evolution 
of his style continued on purely personal lines. 
The pictures painted between 1810 and his 
death, while still at the height of his powers, 
are essentially one with those of the preceding 
decade. There is in them a more delicate 
sense of beauty than before, and his portraits 



RAEBURN 77 

of ladies are marked by a quickened perception 
of feminine grace and charm; but these are 
results of the natural development of his nature 
and of his personal powers of expression rather 
than of any radical alteration in his standpoint. 

As regards the work of the last fifteen years 
and more, it is less increased grasp of character, 
for that had always been a leading trait, than 
growth in the expressive power and complete- 
ness of his technique that is the dominating 
factor. And here the prevailing qualities are 
but the issue of previous experience. His 
modelling ceases to be marked by the rough- 
hewn and over simplified planes which had 
distinguished his incisive square-touch at its 
strongest and becomes fused and suave. As Sir 
Walter Armstrong put it, "He began with the 
facets and ended with the completest modelling 
ever reached by any English painter." Now 
his colour not only loses the inclination to 
slatiness and monotony, which were evident 
before 1795, and sometimes even later, but, the 
half-tones being more delicately graded, the 
transitions, though still lacking the subtleties 
of the real colourist, are blended and the 



78 RAEBURN 

general tone enriched and harmonised. And 
his use of chiaroscuro becomes infinitely more 
delicate both in its play upon the face and in 
the broad disposition, which now attains finer 
and more convincing concentration in virtue of 
more skillful subordination through handling, 
as well as through more pictorial management 
of his old arrangement of lighting. Moreover 
the scenic setting, if retained in many full- 
lengths, is to a great extent abandoned for a 
simple background lighted from the same 
source as the sitter, and against which face and 
figure come in truer atmospheric envelope and 
relief. With these alterations, which were not 
perhaps invariably all gain, his later work now 
and then lacking the delightfully clear and 
incisive brushing of the preceding period, were 
also associated a fuller and fatter body of paint 
which, while never loaded, gives richness of 
effect, and a sonorousness of tone which his 
earlier pictures rarely possess. 

A sympathetic and human perception of 
character was the basis of his relationship to 
his sitters, each of whom is individualised in a 
rarely convincing way, and to me at least the 



RAEBURN 79 

view of life expressed in his later pictures 
seems more genial and comprehending than 
that which dominates his earlier work. Com- 
paratively this is perhaps especially evident in 
his rendering of pretty women. "Mrs Scott 
Moncrieff," "Miss de Vismes," "Miss Janet 
Suttie," and "Mrs Irvine Boswell," to name no 
more, are all beauties; but each differs from 
the others, and is marked by personal traits 
to an extent unusual in his earlier practice. 
Still his grasp of character is more obviously 
seen in his portraitures of older women and of 
men, and his masterpieces are to be found 
amongst his pictures of this kind rather than 
amongst his "beauty" pieces, seductive though 
the best of these are. When one thinks of his 
finest and most personal achievements, one 
recalls such things as "Lord Newton," "Sir 
William Forbes," and "James Wardrop of 
Torbanehill," or "Mrs Cruikshank," and "Mrs 
James Campbell." 

Born a painter of character, Raeburn was 
at his best where character, intellect, and 
shrewdness were most marked. Yet axiomatic 
though it may sound, this implies great gifts. 



8o RAEBURN 

To seize the obvious points of likeness, and 
make a portrait more living than life itself is 
comparatively easy; but to grasp the essential 
elements of likeness and character, and, while 
vitalising these pictorially and decoratively, to 
preserve the normal tone of life is difficult indeed. 
Of this, the highest triumph of the portrait- 
painter's art as such, Raeburn was a master. 



The plates are printed by BEMROSK V SONS, LTD., Derby and London 
The text at the BALLANTVNK PRESS, Edinburgh 




ND Caw, James L , 1864- 

497 Raeburn. 

R24C3 T. C. and E. C 

Jack ( [1909?]) 



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